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The Sunflower

On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A Holocaust survivor's surprising and thought-provoking study of forgiveness, justice, compassion, and human responsibility, featuring contributions from the Dalai Lama, Harry Wu, Cynthia Ozick, Primo Levi, and more.

While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to--and obtain absolution from--a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing.  But even years after the way had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?

In this important book, fifty-three distinguished men and women respond to Wiesenthal's questions. They are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. Their responses, as varied as their experiences of the world, remind us that Wiesenthal's questions are not limited to events of the past.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 31, 1997 – In 1976, Schocken published the first edition of this book. In it, Wiesenthal (The Murderers Among Us) related an autobiographical incident and invited responses from a number of prominent thinkers. For this revised version, responses were solicited from 31 new personages; in addition, 11 of the old responses were retained and three included from the 1981 German edition. Among the new respondents, including intellectuals, writers, theologians, political dissidents and religious leaders from around the world, are the Dalai Lama, Robert Coles, Harold S. Kushner and Albert Speer. The book raises questions of ethics, responsibility, guilt, repentance and forgiveness as Wiesenthal recounts how, as a concentration camp prisoner, he was one day called to the bedside of a dying SS soldier. The terribly wounded young man had requested a Jew to hear his final confession, because of his guilt over vicious crimes against Jewish civilians. The SS man claimed that he was not anti-Semitic and had only followed the orders and lead of his officers and peers. In a few hours, the solider retold the story of his life, without rationalizations or excuses. Now repentant, he described his crime and asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness. The author has pondered his own response--silence--for more than five decades, and he asks his readers what they might have done in his place. In simple yet elegant prose, Wiesenthal recreates the grim reality of a time when Eastern Europe was hell. Never lapsing into the maudlin or self-pitying, his matter-of-fact realism makes the images all the more horrifying. The responses to the author's question are as varied as their authors. The mystery of evil and atonement remain, and the reader is left challenged on these most basic issues of meaning in human life.
The Sunflower
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: Apr 07, 1997
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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